Beating ticks this summer

In our December 2012 issue of ‘Burke’s Backyard’ magazine, Dr Chris Brown has a special story on how to avoid trouble with your pets during this summer. As promised in Chris’s story, here’s some extra information for pet owners wanting to know what to do about preventing and controlling ticks.

Where? The entire East Coast of Australia is affected by ticks, and you need to be vigilant year-round, but especially in summer.

Know your enemy: ticks have eight legs, so a bump on your pet’s body without legs is most probably just a lump. Plus, ticks only attach by their mouths. You will be able to see the rest of their body. They don’t, never have and never will burrow under the skin and hide away there.

Know where they will attach: around 80% of ticks will attach themselves to your pet from the front legs forward. So make sure you focus your search for ticks around the front legs, front feet, neck, ears and head. However, do check the rest of the body as well.

Know the signs: paralysis ticks cause what is called an ‘ascending paralysis’. So the weakness begins in the back legs and works its way forwards. In order of signs, you often (but not always) see: weak back legs, difficulty breathing (often with a grunting sound), change in the tone of the bark, difficulty swallowing, dilated pupils.

Know the time-line: ticks normally need to be attached to your pet for three to four days before they can start to cause paralysis. This may be as long as eight days in some cases. So if you were on the coast on the weekend and your pet looks crook around Wednesday then think ‘ticks’.

Use tick prevention: in my experience, the two spot-on products registered for ticks (Frontline Plus and Advantix) applied fortnightly do work well. As does Frontline Spray. And while tick collars aren’t 100% effective, they will certainly help.

Cat warning: please be careful with some of these products around cats. They can be toxic.